Poles take football racism ‘lies’ protest to BBC’s door

Jacek Winarski, Kasia Pawelczyk and Jacob Soltysiak prepare to protest
Jacek Winarski, Kasia Pawelczyk and Jacob Soltysiak prepare to protest
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A PROTEST against a BBC documentary exposing widespread racism at Polish and Ukranian football stadia is to be held at the corporation’s Edinburgh HQ.

Around 100 members of the city’s Polish community are expected to voice their anger over claims made in the controversial TV programme, Stadiums of Hate, which screened footage of hooliganism and anti-Semitic chanting at several domestic matches in Poland.

The BBC documentary, broadcast one week before the opening of European Championships jointly hosted by the countries, has stoked outrage among the city’s Polish population, who claim the report is misleading.

In the programme, fans of Polish league teams were pictured rioting with police and engaging in widespread anti-Jewish singing. During interviews, black players in the league spoke of racist abuse from the terraces and on the field from fellow professionals.

Protesters will gather outside the BBC office in Holyrood Road today at 2pm.

Marek Soltysiak, 33, director of Polish Community in Scotland CIC, and one of the protest organisers, said footballer Sol Campbell’s claims that England fans travelling to the Euros could “come back in a coffin” were grossly exaggerated.

Asked why he supported the protest, Mr Soltysiak said: “We are representatives of our country in Scotland and want to protect our reputation. If someone is telling lies about our country we have to stand up and say ‘this is lies’.”

He said he understood some of the footage broadcast from Polish stadia had been filmed two or three years previously, but the BBC insists all pictures were captured during a trip to Poland and Ukraine in the last few months.

Mr Soltysiak added: “[Hooliganism] has been a problem for us but the progress that we made in the last three of four years is huge. The BBC programme didn’t show this.”

Tomasz Trafas, Polish Consul General in Edinburgh, said: “Polish people want to protest against the wrong picture [being painted] of our country and the information that was spread, which is not exactly true.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Panorama filmed openly at matches in Poland and Ukraine and at every one recorded incidents of racism and/or violence, including the vicious assault on Asian students at a stadium in Ukraine which will host Euro 2012 games.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com

UNSETTLING SCENES

The images of racist violence and Nazi salutes seen in BBC’s Panorama programme, Stadiums of Hate, broadcast last Monday, have provoked shock and stoked debate across the footballing world.

While some ask whether Ukraine and Poland should have been chosen as hosting nations in the first place, others say these two countries have been unfairly singled out.

The scenes such as those of a group of Indian students being viciously beaten in the family section of the Metalist Kharkiv Stadium are undeniably upsetting.

Former England captain Sol Campbell warned fans to “not even risk” attending the 2012 finals.